Yeast-derived β-1,3/1,6 glucan, upper respiratory tract infection and innate immunity in older adults

Nutrition. Jul-Aug 2017;39-40:30-35. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2017.03.003. Epub 2017 Mar 23.


Objective: The aims of this study were to test whether yeast-derived β-1,3/1,6 glucan can prevent the occurrence or reduce the severity of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and modulate innate immune responses during winter months in community-dwelling older adults.

Methods: This was a double-blind placebo-controlled trial of community-dwelling adults ages 50 to 70 y randomized to once-daily β-1,3/1,6 glucan (Wellmune 250 mg/d; n = 50) or identical placebo capsule (n = 50) over 90 d during winter. URTI episodes were medically confirmed. Symptom severity was recorded via self-reported daily Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Score 21. Blood and saliva samples were collected at days 0, 45, and 90 for measurements of innate immune parameters.

Results: Forty-nine participants completed the trial in each group. Supplementation was well tolerated. Forty-five URTIs were confirmed: 28 in the placebo group and 17 in the Wellmune group (odds ratio, 0.55; 95% confidence interval, 0.24-1.26; P = 0.149). There was a strong trend for Wellmune to decrease the number of symptom days (P = 0.067). Symptom severity did not differ significantly between groups. Compared with the placebo group, lipopolysaccharide-stimulated blood from participants in the Wellmune group showed an increase in interferon-γ concentration from baseline at day 45 (P = 0.016) and smaller decreases in monokine induced by interferon-γ concentration from baseline at days 45 and 90 (P = 0.032 and 0.046, respectively). No difference was seen in serum or nonstimulated blood cytokines and chemokines or in salivary immunoglobulin A.

Conclusion: Daily oral β-1,3/1,6 glucan may protect against URTIs and reduce the duration of URTI symptoms in older individuals once infected. This may be linked to effects on innate immune function. Larger studies are needed to confirm the benefits of β-1,3/1,6 glucan on URTIs in this older population.

Keywords: Elderly; Immune function; Innate immunity; Upper respiratory tract infection; β-1,3/1,6 glucan.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Glucans / immunology*
  • Glucans / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / immunology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae*
  • Seasons
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Glucans
  • epiglucan